Father's Day Barbecue: Healthier Ways to Grill

Posted on by Paula Gallagher

grilled kebabs

For most people, barbecuing is one of the true joys of summertime, and warm weather and Father's Day celebrations will also have many people lighting up the grill. But grilling is unfortunately associated with some real health risks. Research has identified carcinogenic by-products associated with grilled foods, particularly red meat, poultry, lamb, pork and fish. So before you turn on the barbecue, here are some tips on healthier ways to grill, as well ways to make your food more flavorful.

The two carcinogens to be aware of are heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs are formed from high temperatures and overcooking or chargrilling meat. Studies have shown that this compound is carcinogenic. PAHs are formed when fat drips onto the coal or hot surface. The smoke carries the PAHs to the food, but can also form directly on the food when it is charred.

With this in mind, here are some ways of making your barbecued foods healthier:

Don't let the flame get too high

Keep the heat down on the grill and flip food frequently to prevent overcooking on one side. Also, buy thinner cuts of meat so that they don't take as long to cook. And, remember that well-done meat contains more HCAs than medium-rare meat. Avoid charring.

Trim the fat

Buy leaner cuts of meat and cut as much fat off of the meat as possible. Also, flip your food instead of stabbing it with a fork to avoid the fat dripping onto the grill.

Marinate, mix, rub

Research has shown that the ingredients (especially vinegar) in marinades, as well as olive oil, lemon juice and antioxidant herbs and spices (garlic, oregano, sage, thyme, turmeric, rosemary) can protect meat and reduce the chances of carcinogenic compounds forming. Beer marinades, especially ones made with dark beer, have been shown to decrease PAHs by 53%. One study showed that a beef steak marinated with teriyaki sauce had a 45% and 67% lower HCA level at 10 minutes than the unmarinated steak.

Combat carcinogens

Include lots of colorful fruits and vegetables on your menu, especially cruciferous vegetables (kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.). They contain powerful phytonutrients that can help protect against the harmful effects of HCAs. In addition, having fermented foods like a yogurt dip, can also help neutralize HCA activity.

Keep your grill clean

Reduce oil and grease build-up by regularly scrubbing your grill after each use.

Change your clothes

A new study suggests that harmful cancer-causing chemicals can get under a person's skin. In addition to fat dripping onto the coals or hot surface of the grill, PAHs can be produced through the burning of organic substances, such as wood, coal or gasoline. Researchers suggest wearing long sleeve shirts and pants would be best, and then changing immediately following to limit the amount of PAHs in contact with your skin. Note that the concern is more for those who barbecue often.


Serve up a delicious tasting antioxidant-rich beverage, such as Pathway Berry Fusion at your next cookout. Mixed into chilled water, Pathway Berry Fusion provides a nutritious blend of a berries, super fruits, grape seed extract and green tea, as well digestive enzymes. It is full of fresh fruit flavor, powerful antioxidants, and has no added sugar. Happy Father's Day and safe grilling!

Photo from here, with thanks.